This post is made up of a a few reflections that eventually became part of a teaching I did on the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
During the months and years following September 11, 2001, one of the more prominent sentiments was a kind of national solidarity. Our common sense of injury and offense bound us together as Americans. “We” had been attacked and “we” would respond, “we” would recover and “we” would remember together. We had good reason to lock arms with American neighbors of every stripe and consider more deeply the brotherhood of US citizenship. But reflection on the event also provides entry to a broader form of solidarity. On Sept 11 2001, we had a stark and tragic look what it is like to live somewhere like Bosnia, Northern Uganda or any number of places where events of quite similar offense and terror are more regular features of life.
We did suffer a terrible and reprehensible act of violence. Similarly, Bosnians suffered the a reprehensible act of violence when nearly 30,000 Muslim brethren were exterminated in 1995. We were made to feel vulnerable and unsafe, just as Rwandans in 1994 suffered the slaughter of over 800,000 fellow Rwandans (nearly 20% of their population), many of them children, in less than 100 days. I do not at all mean to lessen our own national tragedy. I only want to set in the context of others in the hope that, as we reflect this weekend, we might allow our injury and offense to move us past nationalism to a wider value of human life.
While the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is certainly a time to reflect on what it means to be an American and therefore a member of the American family; it can, and perhaps ought to, also be a time to reflect on what it means to be a human; to share the same fears, hopes and needs and fragility as every other blessed soul on the planet. To put a finer point on it: allowing our reflection on this great tragedy to end only in a deeper sense of national pride and ownership will not be a mistake.. but it will be sadly short-sighted.